Tandoori Chicken is a popular Indian dish, but many versions are bland or dry. Our grilled Tandoori chicken recipe is juicy and exploding with flavor!
A Tough Recipe to Perfect
Tandoori Chicken is a dish that I have had countless times at Indian restaurants. It’s probably a dish that all of us have had many times. Whether it is at a buffet or made to order, Tandoori Chicken always seems to be on the menu, but it is DEFINITELY not always good!
I have had versions that are dry, look like red food coloring is the main ingredient, and taste bland for all the effort that seemed to go into it. Of course there are those hidden gems—the Tandoori Chicken that’s exploding with flavor and perfectly cooked—but those seem to be few and far between.
Given the spotty success rate of Tandoori Chicken, I think that most would agree that this is a tough dish to crack! I am not sure if most Indian restaurants actually use a clay tandoor oven or a conventional oven, but I can tell you for sure that we don’t have access to a tandoor!
Needless to say, we’re not experts in Indian cooking (maybe aspiring experts in eating the stuff), so I needed a solution.
One summer long ago, I had an impulse to try Tandoori Chicken on the grill. I am not sure why, but I never actually made the mental leap to try it in a conventional oven. My first try involved chicken breasts, which did not at all float my boat–very dry. But from there, I wasn’t discouraged, and I tried different variations and recipes, probably at a rate of once per summer, but each time, no dice.
This summer, I’ve somehow managed to nail a recipe! It’s definitely not “authentic,” but it satisfied our tandoori chicken cravings! You’ll notice that it is missing that signature atomic red-food-coloring look, but it was pronounced delicious by my three toughest critics nonetheless! And Kaitlin supplied the Indian-style rice, made with spices and peas.
Enjoy this one folks. This was definitely one of those recipes where we promptly dove on the food once we snapped the last picture!
Grilled Tandoori Chicken: Recipe Instructions
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.
Use a sharp knife to cut slits into the chicken pieces; this will allow the marinade to really get into the chicken. 3 slits per drumstick and 4 to 5 per thigh should do the trick.
Usually, Tandoori Chicken calls for the skin to be removed, but I left it on because you want that crispy chicken skin (obviously). You can decide for yourself, but be aware that skin-on chicken is more prone to flare-ups when grilling. You’ll have to watch the chicken more closely while it’s on the grill and flip the pieces more often to avoid hot spots–all reasonable trade-offs for some extra flavor!
Place the chicken in a large dish. Spread the marinade all over the chicken and let marinate at least 12 hours, but not more than 2 days.
We marinated our chicken for 16 hours, and even more marinating time wouldn’t have hurt!
Be sure to take the chicken out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours prior to grilling, so the chicken can come to room temperature–kind of like how you never want to grill a cold steak. This is an important step since there will be marinade on the chicken, and it will burn if the chicken is left too long on the grill because its internal temperature is too low.
This is a good time to make your Indian-style jeera rice. We’ve measured out enough rice here to take down all of the chicken, but feel free to make more or less. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain into your cooking vessel. Cover with water and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
While that’s happening, heat your oil/butter/ghee in a saucepan. When it’s melted, add the cumin seeds, cloves, and cinnamon stick. Let the spices infuse the oil for 2-3 minutes. After the rice has finished soaking, drain it thoroughly and add it to the spice mixture. Sauté the rice in the pan for about 2 minutes, and transfer to a rice cooker. Add the salt and water (according to your rice cooker directions), and press Start. If you’re not using a rice cooker, use our directions for perfect stovetop rice.
Now it’s time to cook the chicken. Start your grill, and keep it covered until it reaches 500 degrees.
Shake off the excess marinade before placing the chicken on the hot grill. Cook with the grill covered, but stay close to watch for excess smoke, a sure indicator that your chicken is charring!
Turn the chicken as often as needed to prevent burning and keep the grill cover on so the chicken cooks through quickly. Our chicken took about 45 minutes, and we did have to turn and move the chicken pieces often.
The chicken is done when the juices run clear when poked or, better yet, use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature near the bone. The optimal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F.
For the rice, during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking time, add the frozen peas and stir thoroughly. Let the rice reheat. Serve the chicken with the rice, sliced fresh cucumbers, sliced red onion, and cilantro.